NEA tells firms to remove 'Tray Return Ambassador' ads

This role doesn't even really exist.

Belmont Lay | July 04, 2021, 04:21 AM

The National Environment Agency (NEA) has told several companies to take down listings for the tray return ambassador job.

The government agency said the “listings were made by companies on their own accord, without having secured any contract with NEA”.

Premature interests in hiring

Job listings seeking applicants for the tray return ambassador role have been put up by cleaning and outsourcing companies.

One June 14 listing with a salary range of S$1,400 to S$2,200 a month by consulting firm Greensafe International, even advertised the role of tray return ambassador on

But it is now understood that the company had not even secured a contract with NEA to hire for this position, which is not even formally called "Tray Return Ambassador".

NEA said: “Hence we have reached out to those companies and requested that they take down their unsolicited listings.” 

Contract not even secured

Companies recruit for such ambassador roles regularly, but only do so after the government has put up and awarded the tenders to the firms.

Some of the listings have been taken down, but others can still be viewed publicly.

NEA also said it does not stipulate the monthly salary offered for tenders, as the figure is determined by the vendor.

This has led to a wide range in salaries offered, depending on the company.

NEA explained: “The appointed vendor will be responsible for the recruitment and deployment of the ambassadors, including administration of their salaries and other related costs and benefits.”

Not the same as being a cleaner

Elaborating on what a tray ambassador does, NEA said these personnel may be tasked to move about different hawker centres, on top of reminding diners to return their dirty trays and crockery after meals, and ensuring safe distancing measures are observed.

Comments online have noted that it appears that a tray return ambassador's role overlaps with a cleaner's job.

However, NEA said ambassadors are routinely hired to maintain the safety and cleanliness at hawker centres. 

NEA added: “This practice has been in place even before the Covid-19 pandemic and was stepped up recently due to the pandemic situation.”

On one of the job ads, the requirements for interested candidates include being able to engage and encourage patrons, stallholders and cleaners of the hawker center to participate in the "Tray Return Initiative".

NEA announced in May 2021 that diners may be issued warnings and fines when they fail to return their trays at hawker centres from Sep. 1.

The three-month advisory period started in June.

Top photos via Jane Zhang